Who goes there?

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The first snowfall always shatters my illusion of privacy. I go out, the morning after, to discover that it’s Grand Varmint Central out there.

There are rabbits criss-crossing the driveway. There are raccoons (still!) trying to get in the chicken coop. There is the occasional wild turkey. There is a coyote, or maybe the neighbor’s German shepherd.

But what the hell is this?

As much as I'd like to have varmints who leave money, the bill is for scale.

It’s a series of tracks, in one line, evenly spaced a little less than a foot apart. Each print is a grouping of four holes, each of which seems like it’s made with a stick, rather than a paw pad.  My best guess is a small rabbit on stilts. You got a better idea?

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Comments

  1. Bob and I think rabbit prints morphed by warm snow…

    • Suzie — I like the thinking out of the box! But I took the photo when it was still cold. And it was our crunchy first snowfall on Friday, not the big fluffy snowfall yesterday. There were rabbit prints right nearby, and it just didn’t look like that. Still, it’s a better idea than rabbits on stilts, so I appreciate it!

  2. Little rabbits, trying to keep fuzzy little rabbit fannies out of the cold snow.

    The big part is the back legs. The two small dots are the front paws. When there’s snow on the ground they hop, instead of the usual scuttle-type thing they do.

    • The pattern is right, but those are amazingly tiny rabbit feet. I’ve never seen anything so small. Then again, up here we don’t have cottontails, only snowshoe hares (which got their name for a reason).

      Here, I’d say anything that little would have to be red squirrel or smaller.

  3. If they drop $10 bills between every hop, they’re worth encouraging.

  4. Ken, given that you actually seem to know what the prints are, you might have had the grace to wait for a few wrong answers before you set us all straight. So much for drama!

    Tovar, it sounds like a fortune cookie fortune: “Encourage rabbits dropping money.”

  5. I think it is a squirrel.

  6. Wait, we have drama! Two votes for squirrel. But do they hop like that? There was a long line of uniformly spaced prints.

  7. My totally amateur vote (because I see highly similar tracks on my deck all the time) is squirrels when there is a light wind erasing some detail.

    If anyone out there would like to come take a few squirrels away for comparison testing I would be happy to help them out…and my garden would appreciate it as well.

  8. I love a nice snowfall just so you can see who’s been out and about in your area. Those are squirrel tracks…based on the size and your location I’d have to say red squirrel. When they’re running the tracks do look like mini rabbits. PS I’m a biologist who has IDed tracks for a living.

    Although if you do have mini Easter bunnies who lay $10 bills could you trap a few and send them my way, I think I’d like to try and breed them.

  9. Hmmm… are my redneck credentials being called into question? ;-)

    Could be squirrel, but I don’t think grey squirrel. They also hop, but you can normally see brush marks in the snow behind them where they dashingly swish as they scamper.

    Also, grey squirrels aren’t (normally) nocturnal, and are normally holed-up snug this time of year. They get out and forage some, but usually only in the warmest parts of the day.

    Do you have those little red squirrels in your area, Tamar? Some people call them Fairy Diddles? Kind of a cross between a chipmunk and a squirrel, with tufts of hair on their ears. Could be that.

    Could also be flying squirrels, now that I think about it. They’re nocturnal. But from pictures you’ve posted of your place, it seems like it’s pretty well wooded, so I doubt they’d be hopping around.

    I think I’m sticking with little rabbits, though.

  10. So, squirrel, we all except Ken think?

    I’ve never seen a red squirrel here (which doesn’t mean we don’t have them — my outdoorswoman skills aren’t exactly the stuff of legend). Could it be a chipmunk? We’ve got bazillions of those.

    Whatever it is, it has tiny feet, and must hop pretty far for its size.

  11. Well, what is common around there? First guess, and probably best guess, is a small red squirrel. Bot a lot of critters will leave that kind of track, including a weasel.

    Is there just one set? Do they end up at a tree, or just go into the woods?

    More questions than answers.

    Now I am starting to like the weasel answer more, just for the novelty.

  12. Pygmy deer. And I’m with Tovar. We have lots of critters visiting our yard, but none of them leave money.

  13. Steve — Weasel? Don’t tell me weasel. I really don’t want weasels. The tracks started by our outdoor shower (so, whatever it is, it was clean), and went across the driveway to the garden. I didn’t follow the tracks to their conclusion so I don’t know where the thing went. I hope it wasn’t the chicken coop.

    NorCal — Pygmy deer, you say? Pygmy deer. Fat lot of help you are. And just yesterday I was telling Kevin what a useful and constructive commenter you are.

  14. I doubt it’s a weasel, but that is about the last thing I’d want to see if I was trying to raise chickens, even if it was a weasel that liked to drop ten dollar bills. I think it is a climbing rodent. Rabbits front footprints usually aren’t even like that, chipmunk and squirrel front prints usually are. I’m a fellow Massachusetts resident. In my neck of woods, gray squirrels are ubiquitous, but a few red squirrels are present. If I had guess a single species, I’d guess red squirrel. Pygmy deer is an amusing guess. It would certainly be news worthy to find Pygmy deer are roaming around Cape Cod.

  15. I vote for red squirrel. Here are snow tracks showing a similar little butterfly shape, don’t you think?http://www.pbase.com/laroseforest/image/121740317

    Though, really, I’m hoping it’s a pygmy deer. How cool would it be to have pygmy deer who shower before going across the road for dinner in the garden?

  16. eagergridlessbeaver says:

    ..a squirrel. I followed enough of those type of tracks in order to elminate the trackmaker from eating my chicken feed and nesting all over the yard..at first we liked the squirrels..then they were not afraid of us and ate our feed..then they made a terrible mistake and chewed my motorcycle seat and a war started. I did hear a squirrel the other day..but I have not seen one since last spring.

    a rich squirrel at that!

  17. So it looks like the consensus is squirrel. My only problem with that is that I have never seen a red squirrel around here — but I have to admit that the photo Yvette posted looks a lot like my tracks.

    Can’t be a chipmunk, eh?

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